Implementation body to mediate in Aer Lingus dispute

THE National Implementation Body was yesterday given the unenviable task of searching for a resolution of the year-long dispute between Aer Lingus and its unions over its €20 million cost-cutting programme.

Both sides were asked to give their viewpoint on Programme for Continuous Improvement (PCI-07), which will see reduction in workers’ overall pay packets, restrictions on overtime and trimmed holidays.

Both the company and unions remained tight-lipped after the talks so as not to influence the deliberations, which are expected to yield a recommendation before the end of the week. However, sources have indicated the NIB’s intervention may have been doomed to rhetoric before yesterday given the intransigence that both sides are exhibiting. Last month, the company initiated a freeze on pay increases of 7.5% due to workers under both the social partnership agreement Towards 2016 and annual increments unless staff accepted the cost-saving package.

Then, last week, in a letter to SIPTU which represents its ground crew, Aer Lingus chief executive Dermot Mannion offered the workers a minimum €13,000 compensation package if they would agree to PCI-07.

However, he also instituted:

A recruitment freeze until PCI-07 is accepted.

The release of all contract clerical and operative staff by January 31, 2008.

Immediate implementation of revised PCI contracts for all existing fixed term staff made permanent.

Conditions whereby all future promotions would be made on PCI grading ratios.

While the company admits the tactic is to bring matters to a head, worker sources said the company was trying to bully through its position.

Cabin crews have also been angered by the proposals. Its union representative, IMPACT, said the figures proposed would only compensate for two years’ loss of earnings under PCI-07 and that was nowhere near enough. One option is to refer its grievance to the Labour Court where it has had a degree of success so far.

Meanwhile, union officials are due to meet this week to discuss Aer Lingus’s plans to cut 51 jobs at Shannon as it moves its Heathrow operation to Belfast.

The opening of new bases by Aer Lingus was supposed under a Labour Court recommendation not to impact on existing staff.

The company said it will give details of a severance package for the Shannon workers in the next few days before it looks for voluntary redundancies.

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